[japan]英語で午後12時はランチタイム:12am is noon in Japan

In Japan, 12 am is a lunch time. In other nations, it's midnight. I realized this difference when my alarm set for a lunch meeting started to ring at night.

The same question was raised by Kuribo of Blogger Tips. He found that there's no zero o'clock in Blogger.com pulldown menu. "Watch out. On Blogger.com, 12pm is not a midnight," he warned.

'A.M. (ante meridiem)' means 'before noon' and 'P.M. (post meridiem)' means 'after noon' in Latin. It's same in Japanese; Gozen (午前) means before (前) noon (午), Gogo (午後) means after (後) noon (午), and '午 (horse)' represents noon in the Chinese zodiac system.

But somehow, most Japanese (not all) feel awkward if we switch the am/pm suffix in the middle of serial numbers. To avoid it, we use zero o'clock. In Japan, 12 midnight is generally called 12pm or 0am, while 12 noon is referred to as 12am or 0pm. The beauty of zero o'clock is that you don't need this fuss for converting 12-hr to 24-hr. All you need is to add 12 hours to PM part.

According to Japan Standard Time Project's FAQ "12am? or 0pm?," noon was first defined as 12am under an 1872 Japanese Law when Japan introduced Western calender. Japanese insurance companies follow this rule to this day.

However, digital clocks on video recorders, cellphones, and Windows, for example, show 12 pm at noon, which has changed this a lot (hot debate goes on and on). Back in 1972, a K-12 student got confused and asked the teacher which is right. The inquiry was forwarded to the principal, superintendents, all the way up to the Ministry of Education that eventually contacted Japan Clock & Watch Association(JCWA) for an official comment.

JCWA along with The Horological Institute of Japan (HIJ) conducted an extensive research and concluded that "24 hour notation is the ideal solution. For AM/PM, using zero o'clock is more logical than using 12 o'clock, though it's too early to call for an universal standard."

The 12 o'clock confuses even English-speaking folks (Google Groups: comp.lang.c).  Wikipedia tells us why it's less practical.

The interesting thing I found on Wiki is that, Romans numbered the morning hours originally in reverse: for example, "3 a.m.", or 3 hours ante meridiem meant "three hours before noon", compared to the modern meaning of "three hours after midnight."  --That's why 12 midnight is still called 12 hours before noon, which is 12 am... ! (Don't ask me why 12 pm lost its midnight front.)

Well, if you wanna do business with Japan, use 24-hour clock. We already use it for TV and train schedule. Because if you tell them to hand in the report by 12:30pm, some might guess that you'd work past midnight waiting for the report. Sounds crazy? In Tokyo, it doesn't.

updates: Which is correct: 12 Midnight A.M. or 12 Midnight P.M.? "NEITHER" by 我的天空: Some Chinese also think 12am is noon.

***

アメリカで一度、ランチの約束でアラームを12:30amにセットしたら真夜中過ぎに鳴った。時計は狂っていない。英語圏では午前12時が夜で、午後12時は昼。英語圏のネイティブはもちろん、こっちに長い日本人も皆その感覚なので注意が必要だ。

拙ブログが使っているBlogger.comは英語圏なので、ここで12:30pmと投稿時刻があったらそれは昼のことである。WordpressやTypePadもたぶん同じ。とにかく数字がどうあれ正午を境にamとpmは変わるし、英語で「零時」は使わない。

Blogger.comのトラバ設置、カテゴリ検索など便利な使い方のコツとツールを提供するクリボウさんも、先日ブロガー編集画面でこの問題に気付いた。→クリボウの Blogger Tips: 0 時台はありません

午後12時半の謎はmohno氏も採り上げており、そのリンク先・情報通信研究機構のQ&A「午前12時? 午後0時?」を読めば日本の状況は分かる。

日本では「明治五年太政官布告」が午前・午後の解釈を示した唯一の法律で、真夜中は「午前零時」「午後12時」、正午は「午前12時」と定めた。「午後零時」は定義がウヤムヤ。放送や時報では正午のことを「午後零時」と呼ぶが、保険なんかは「午前12時」だったりする。もっとも最近はTV番組表電車時刻表も国際契約書も24時間表記が主流だが。

ところがデジタル時計は録画予約も携帯もWindowsも世界一律「正午=PM12:00」。混乱したある小学生が昭和51年、担任に聞いてみたところ担任も分からなくて校長、教育長、文部省と経由。とうとう文部省の諮問を受けた日本時計協会日本時計学会と合同調査の結果、以下の公式見解に達した。
家庭用デジタル時計の表示は、国の内外を問わずすべて12時間方式を採用 し、“11”時の次に来る数字は、例外なく“12”時を採用している。しか し、午前・午後の表示を伴うデジタル時計については、明らかに“12”時は不 適当であり“0”時を用いるのが妥当である。また、デジタル時計の究極の形 としては24時間表示が至当であろう。しかし、この問題は従来からの慣習と 深く関連するので早急に表示方式の規正統一をはかることは時期尚早である。

学術的には零時支持ということか。確かに零時がない英語圏では24時間換算はこんな複雑な場合分けになるから教える方はタイヘンだ。

ただデジタルの影響は侮れず、日本でも12pm=正午という人がかなり増えた。12時に関してはアメリカ人同士でもたまに混乱するし(Google Groups: comp.lang.c)、問題点については"12-hour time : Wikipedia"がよくまとまっている。

英語で真夜中を12amと呼ぶのは何故か? ラテン語で「A.M. (ante meridiem)」は「午前(before noon)」、「P.M. (post meridiem)」は「午後(after noon)」。ここまでは日本も一緒だが、AMをAnte(イタリア語はanti)の語義通りに使おうと思ったら初期の古代ローマ人のように実は正午から逆算していかなきゃならない。つまり3AMは「正午3時間前」で今の午前9時、12AMは正午12時間前で真夜中になる。(追:何故12PMが昼に回されたのかは不明)

残り全部が1から11までひっくり返って12だけ元のまま残るのも解せないが、慣習というのはそういうものだろう。日本人同士は零時で事足りるが、零時でピンとこない西洋人と約束する時は「昼の12時?夜の12時?」と念押しするのが無難だ。

関連
日本人の間でも大激論→日本の標準 正午の表記
イギリスの邦人も大混乱→[ 午前と午後] by 熊も踊る
goo!は法的根拠で12am=正午説→[教えて!goo] 午前12時って?

update!
我的天空: 中国の方も「12am=正午」という感覚のようだ。

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Comments

  1. Noon is AM
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  3. FYI
    The 29th edition of the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual (2000) section 12.9 recommended the use of "12 p.m." for midnight and "12 a.m." (formerly "12 m.") for noon.

    HOWEVER, the 30th edition of the U.S. Government Style Manual (2008) sections 9.54 and 12.9b recommends the use of "12 a.m." for midnight and "12 p.m." for noon.

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